By: Peter Christian, David Kay, and Paul Schmidt
There are two types of Cubs fans, one that is always waiting for the other shoe to drop, the other is always looking for the signs of the next hot streak. So instead of a standard objective midseason review about the Cubs, why not hear from the polar viewpoints with a Q&A session from The Sports Bank’s own Cub fans who just happen to fit the molds of the opposing loyalties.
(PC) The Cubs had high expectations going into the postseason last year before getting trounced by the upstart Dodgers in the NLDS. That series seemed to be a turning point for both franchises as the Dodgers have vaulted themselves to be among the elite in the MLB and the Cubs have regressed into mediocrity. Can the Cubs get out of this funk and become a true contender or are they destined to sit back and hope that everyone else just collapses?
(DK) No… this team has less heart than the Bad News Bears after their first game under Buttermaker… Butternut…Buttercup… Whatever. The Cubs have nine players making at least $7 million this season, and only one of them made the All-Star team. It wasn’t Carlos Zambrano or Alfonso Soriano. It was Derrek Lee or Aramis Ramirez. It was Ted Lilly. Ted Freakin’ Lilly. Do you realize the Cubs had EIGHT All-Stars last season. This year, one?!?!?! Really??? They are not going to get healthy this season. Derrek Lee is destined to hurt his wrist in the up-coming weeks. Yes, they are 27th in batting average in the majors and that can’t get any worse, but I don’t see the pitching staff posting the fifth best ERA like they did in the first half. At least they will spare me the torture of getting the hat trick for first round sweeps in the Playoffs, though. I mean, that’s a positive, right?
(PS) I was told coming into this that I’d have to play the optimist in this discussion, which I thought was hilarious, as I’m the most negative Cubs fan I know…but even I expect there will be some kind of a rebound. There simply HAS to be. I understand that, statistically, individual players can have slumps, but an entire team screwing the pooch for the entire season seems unlikely. This club is by no means perfect – but they are better than a .500 team, and I believe that that team will show up in the second half.
David hit the nail on the head for my biggest concern however – it’s the injuries. Cub teams are typically somewhat injury prone, but this season has really gotten out of hand. I think Congress needs to investigate this – someone is providing the Cubs’ trainers with anti-steroids. De-voids?
(PC) Coming into 2009 the biggest changes for the Cubs were the additions of Milton Bradley and Kevin Gregg and the subtractions of Mark DeRosa and Kerry Wood. After a half season (and taking all four players performance into consideration) would you say the Cubs aced, passed or failed the off-season based on those transactions?
(DK) Let’s see. Bradley didn’t get above the Mendoza line until May 27th and is such a train wreck in right field that he makes Sammy Sosa look like a Gold Glover. He has failed miserably in being the left handed bat the Cubs so desperately needed in the middle of their line-up. I’ll cut Gregg some slack. After a fairly disastrous start, the rec-spec rocking closer has been solid holding the opposition scoreless in 17 of his last 18 outings.
Wood has had an up-and-down season in Cleveland while DeRosa was solid with the Tribe before being traded to the Lou where he’s been out since June 30th with a torn tendon in his right wrist. I don’t think they failed, but the Cubs barely passed, getting a ‘D’.
(PS) Wood has been downright bad for Cleveland, so much so they dealt DeRo for Chris Perez, who couldn’t nail down a closing job that was being gifted to him in St. Louis. DeRo started slow, but picked it up later to post some respectable numbers prior to the deal.
Milton is going to be much maligned, and I understand that, but one thing you cannot say about him is that he doesn’t try. He gives his maximum effort every time out, and no one is harder on him than he is on himself. It’s not like one player in particular in the Cubs lineup, who looks like he has better things to do with his time, he really wants to win.
That all being said, he’s got the highest on base percentage of anyone on the team, despite only hitting .243 in the first half. With 41 walks in just over 250 plate appearances, his batting eye is really improving, and eventually pitchers are going to have to throw him strikes. Combine that with the weather warming up at Wrigley, and that should bring up some of his numbers.
I don’t really have much to say about Kevin Gregg other than I hate him and his stupid glasses and the fact that he is closing instead of Marmol. Maybe Carlos’ season would have been better from the start if he was in the role he was meant to be. He’s the DIRECTV of closers.
(PC) Milton Bradley has become the target of many Cubs fans angry rants (drunken or otherwise). Can he a) turn it around to become a reliable everyday contributor to the team and b) win over the thousands of loyal visitors of Wrigleyville?
(DK) No and No. He was so awful to start the season and has been such a circus in the field that he would have to hit .400 in the second half of the season and smack the game-winning walk-off grand slam to put the Cubs into the post-season. I don’t see either of those happening, meaning he stays in the Wrigley faithfuls’ dog house.
(PS) Yes and No. I explained part one already – statistically he is bound to improve as long as he continues what he is doing – but he won’t ever be anything remotely close to a fan favorite. They’ll cheer him for what he does, but no one will ever forget the ball toss into the stands with 2 outs, and that’s unfortunate. HE has the potential to be a very good player for this team, and I wish that people could get behind him. I enjoy watching him play, myself.
(PC) Injuries have hit the Cubbies hard this season. Which first half injury caused the most damage to the squad’s win-loss record and can they get and remain healthy for a run down the stretch?
(DK) A-Ram, without a doubt. While Lee, Bradley, and Geovany Soto were hitting below their weight for the first two months of the season, Ramirez got off to a scorching start. He went down and the Cubs’ offense got colder than Lambeau Field in late December.
(PS) I would have said ARam a week ago, but It’s Geovany Soto. We have no other catcher in the organization who can come up and catch (because emergency third catcher, Rob Johnson, ALSO got hurt at AAA), which means we’re going to get a whole lot of Jake Fox behind the plate. You know, the position we were all told he couldn’t play. And Koyie Hill, while a nice enough backup, takes everything off the table as a starter. And whatever he grabs, he then proceeds to shove in his pants. And then he soils himself.
(PC) Prior to the season, it seemed like a formality that Padres ace Jake Peavy was going to take on the anchor role for the Cubs. Since that deal fell apart the Cubs have been relatively quiet on the trade market. Are the Cubs committed to playing things out with this squad and filling holes from within or will they become a bit more active in the next couple of weeks?
(DK) They’ve invested too much money in the current crap they have on their roster to pull off a major trade. I think they could try to find a lefty arm to bring out of the bullpen, an inexpensive second baseman, or catching depth to offset Soto’s injury, but they won’t be a major buyer come the end of this month.
(PS) Prior to the season I thought we needed a Peavy deal. Now, I think we need a second baseman or a shortstop (an SS would allow you to move Theriot to second, a position he can adequately field). The biggest failure of this Cubs team has been the middle infield platoon pu-pu platter that has been shuttled out there all season. Fontenot isn’t the answer at second, and nothing else they have is sufficient, especially after trading Eric Patterson, who could have at least played to the level of what’s been out there this season.
A trade to fill the Soto gap is also a distinct possibility, but it won’t be a major move.
(PC) Who has been the Cubs MVP of the first half? LVP?
(DK) MVP- The other sucky teams in the NL Central.
Because the Cardinals and Brewers have been as inconsistent as the Cubs, there is still a glimmer of hope that the Cubs can make a second half run and win the division.
(PS) I’ll still go with Derrek Lee. I love the stability that Ted Lilly brought to the pitching staff, but Derrek, flat out carried the offense for a solid month when no one else was hitting. He’s showing flashes of the D-Lee of old, which is a much needed sight for the offense.
(DK) LVP- The entire starting outfield.
Soriano, Fukudome, and Bradley’s total salary for this season is $36.5 million and none of the them are hitting above .251. Those three have combined for just ten more hits than strike-outs. At least Fukudome can catch a routine fly ball though. I would easily trade any of them for Jesse Orosco’s 52-year old arm. Stop chuckling, I’m serious.
(PS) I’m just singling out Alfonso Soriano. He’s pouted since being moved down in the lineup, and he even looked angry after being pulled from the game on last Sunday night during Lou’s Sean-Marshall-in-left-field-then-pitching-again experiment. He’s not hitting, looks confused in the box, and is posting the worst season of his career. Plus, it’s been a real contest this season between he and Milton Bradley as to who has been worse in the field, and that’s saying something.
Soriano isn’t earning his money, and don’t be shocked if the Cubs listen to any and all offers for him in the upcoming offseason, possible taking something that sells him for 10 cents on the dollar. Anything to get out from under that contract.
(PC) As you can see, even the positive Cubs fans have started the downward spiral (although we may have been doomed to begin with by slotting Schmidt in that role… kind of like throwing Jake Fox in at catcher…hmmm). I guess we are only a couple weeks away for the ugliest but inevitable perennial four word phrase to be uttered in Chicago: Wait ‘Til Next Year”